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News Release

EBSA Press Release: New Law Eliminates Certain Employee Benefit Plan Filing Requirements [08/08/1997]

Archived News Release — Caution: Information may be out of date.

For more information call: (202) 219-8921

The U.S. Department of Labor today announced that administrators of employee benefit plans are no longer required to file summary plan descriptions and related plan changes with the department.

Effective Aug. 5, 1997, with the passage of the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997, plan administrators subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act will no longer be required to file summary plan descriptions (SPDs), summary material modifications (SMMs) or updated SPDs with the Labor Department. These filings cost plan administrators approximately $2.5 million annually. The new law, however, does not relieve plan administrators from their obligation to furnish participants and beneficiaries with copies of these documents.

"The elimination of these filings will reduce the administrative costs and burdens for both plan administrators and the government," said Olena Berg, Assistant Secretary for the Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration (PWBA). "At the same time, the new law gives the department authority to protect the access of workers to needed plan information."

PWBA is advising plan administrators that they should immediately cease filing these plan documents with the department, even if the event giving rise to the filing obligation occurred before Aug. 5, 1997. For example, a plan amendment adopted on July 1, 1997, would result in a requirement that a SMM be furnished to participants and beneficiaries and filed with the department within 210 days after the end of the plan year. Under the new requirement, the SMM need not be filed with the department.

Until now, PWBA has received over 150,000 SPDs and related filings from plans each year. Under the new law, plan administrators must furnish copies of SPDs and other plan documents to the department upon request. In addition, new civil penalties of up to $100 per day (not to exceed $1,000 per request) may be assessed against administrators who fail to furnish the requested information to the department within 30 days.

The SPD is the basic document which gives plan participants and beneficiaries information about how the plan works, what benefits the plan provides and how those benefits may be calculated. If any of these plan details change from what was described in the SPD, participants and beneficiaries must receive a SMM describing that change. The administrator must also periodically update the SPD, incorporate all SMMs, and furnish copies of the updated SPD to participants and beneficiaries.

Archived News Release — Caution: Information may be out of date.

Employee Benefits Security Administration
August 8, 1997
Release Number